Post contributed by Katia Zogg, SNDA Public Policy Committee Leader
The role of dietitians in health care is incredibly important, especially when it comes to malnutrition in hospitals and how intervention by a registered dietitian nutritionist can improve the outcomes for malnourished patients. On Monday, March 11th over 200 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN), nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered (NDTR), and dietetic interns gathered at the state capitol for the annual California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Public Policy Workshop to advocate for the profession. This year, dietitians spoke to lawmakers about the benefits of RDN intervention for malnutrition and the importance of professional licensure.
Clinical malnutrition is becoming an increasingly worrisome concern and it is vital that malnutrition be diagnosed and addressed in a timely manner. Malnutrition can decrease quality of life, lead to longer hospital stays, increase costs to the patient, hospital, and insurance companies, impact recovery time, and increase the risk of death. RDNs work together with the health care team to ensure that patients receive the nutrition they need. Weight history, dietary intake, a nutrition-focused physical examination, and lab values are evaluated by RDNs to assess for malnutrition. A nutrition-focused physical exam involves checking hand grip strength, fluid accumulation, and loss of muscle and body fat.
RDNs are educated and trained to address the issue of malnutrition, but in order to make it more effective, licensure protection is needed. Currently in California, RDNs have title protection with no formal state regulation. Title protection provides very little protection to consumers, while licensure would provide much better consumer protection and allow consumers to find and access qualified professionals who can provide ethical and safe nutrition therapy. Additionally, licensure would also ensure that standards of professional competencies are met in order to be reimbursed for the provision of nutrition care services. Basically, licensure would provide assurance to government and health insurance companies so that the nutrition services provided by RDNs can be reimbursed.
The California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is working on proposing a consumer safety bill in 2020-2021 for RDN licensure in California.
For more information about professional licensure from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, click here. You can also view an interactive map of other state’s RDN licensure protection. And you can click here to learn more about the CA legislative steps to licensing.
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